The constant in San Antonio's playoff streak is head coach Gregg Popovich.
But its task begins with the Spurs, a team that manages to put up impressive scoring numbers of its own behind a deep rotation that features two scores over 20 points per game and almost seven averaging double figures. Only three main rotation players have been to the playoffs, with forward Paul Millsap (87 games) the only one with extensive experience. "He's their guy, so they are going to try to move him around more and try to make me work and get him more quick shots". The team shot 42 percent from the field and 21 percent from three-point range. Jokic scored 20 points to help lead Denver to the victory. Malone said he would take that same shot from Murray to win the game again. The spread has opened at -6.5 for the Nuggets (money line: Denver- -275; San Antonio +225).
Nuggets coach Michael Malone said he wasn't looking for Jokic, his All-Star center, to take more shots. The Nuggets won the most recent matchup 10 days ago in Denver 113-85, the most lopsided game between the two sides this season.
Nikola Jokic finished with 29 points and 14 rebounds and Murray scored 17 for Denver. He sank his first free throw and missed his second, but teammate Will Barton corralled the rebound and dribbled out the clock.
San Antonio: The Spurs have won five of six playoff series against the Nuggets with their only series defeat coming in 1985.
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The Spurs also played well defensively, holding the Nuggets to 96 points in their first game.
The Rockets boast the NBA's second-rated offense and James Harden has made a case for repeating as MVP. They will need to continue playing well defensively if they want to go to San Antonio with a 2-0 lead. Denver failed to score a single fast-break point as the Spurs largely kept the pace of the game to their liking.
The Spurs have played under the total in their last five games against Northwest division teams and in 10 of their last 11 games against Western Conference opponents.
As the Spurs prepare for this long series, all the components that came together for last night's win is confirmation that the Spurs have the ingredients to avoid an early round exit in the playoffs, when it matters. Clutch, aka Jamal Murray will be called upon to be at his best at times when every possession could be critical.
With Saturday's 101-96 victory in Denver as San Antonio made its 22nd straight postseason appearance, the Spurs coach won his 1,413th game between the regular season and playoffs to become the winningest coach in National Basketball Association history.
Gobert had a super efficient (8-of-10 shooting) double-double of 22 points and 12 rebounds, but the same can't be said for Mitchell, who put up 19 on 7-of-18 shooting from the field (38.9 percent) while recording zero assists.